Studio for the Holidays: 2 One-Person Shows
An Interview with Anthony Rodriguez & Jaclyn Hofmann By Jacob McKee
Aurora Theatre: How is being in a one person show different than being in a show with several other actors?
Jaclyn: I would say that the main difference is that the audience is your scene partner rather than other actors. At first I was nervous. Because, one of the things I love about acting is having a scene partner and having someone to bounce energy off of and listen and respond to. However, what I discovered is that the audience becomes that in a one person show. That can be fun and exciting, and is very different from night to night.
Anthony: For me, it’s pretty fascinating. You have to get accustomed to engaging with yourself. In a regular show, you have another character that is present, but in a one person show you have to be that other person simultaneously. And so that’s an interesting little exercise. But it’s been fascinating—this’ll be the ninth year [of A Christmas Carol] and every year I think I lose myself a little bit more in the hour and fifteen minutes of the show and then just ride the wave until it’s over, and the characters take it from there, talking to each other, having a good time.
Aurora Theatre: What makes the process different in a one-person show? How much harder is memorization, and what role do the technicians play in bringing the show to life?
Anthony: If I’m working on a play with a lot of other characters, then the blocking is really important to remember where I am when I’m saying certain lines. Without any set blocking, because the audience is on three sides of me and I never know where they’re going to sit. – It’s very much as Jaclyn said: the audience is my other character, right? So I’ll engage with them, sit with them, sit on their laps, walk out into the audience, take their cell phones away if they happen to be playing on them. I don’t necessarily have those physical cues to help me remember the lines.
Jaclyn: Kelly [Criss, director of 12 Dates of Christmas], divided the play up into twelve sections, which was really helpful because the top of each section is a transition into a new part of the story. Those transitions become important because if you skip ahead to a different section, there’s nobody there to bring you back. And then, of course, it’s a lot of material so it takes a little longer. The first time we worked on the show, I recorded my lines and started working on them August. I listened to them pretty much every day. Since this is now my third year, I start listening in September.
Anthony: I memorized a lot while walking on a treadmill. Reading it over and over. Playing it over and over on a voice recorder. I have a pretty good knack for memorizing what a page looks like when I’m memorizing, but that’s a lot of pages. I did use distinct highlighters for all of the major characters.
Jaclyn: As for the technicians, one of the biggest things in my show are the sound cues, because some of them are like cue lines that trigger the next section, or the next thing that happens.
Anthony: Yeah, I have certain sound cues that have to happen. I have been thrown by not having one work. So the stage manager is incredibly important. They also have a couple of lines in the show too. I need a great stage manager to help me navigate—because I’ve walked out of the theatre to get coffee or a bottle of water for a patron who is coughing..
Jaclyn: Also props are a big part of the show. They help me tell the story, and there are a lot of props that represent different characters that are not there, of course.
Anthony: They have given me a playground where I can move easily and change it depending on what scene I’m in or what I need, depending on how I want to use any particular piece of clothing… so, it would be difficult to do it without them.
I also want to say something about Michael Tarver, [who does the school tours of A Christmas Carol]. I don’t know that I could’ve done it for this many years without Michael. Michael was one of our first apprentices back in 2012. As one of their experiences, I said, “let’s audition everyone — men and women—and let’s cast one to do the school tours.” I was planning to make that an assignment every year for one of the apprentices. But Michael did such a great job, really owned the show that we have continued to have him do it. And he does a great job—he’s got more school bookings than I have performances this year. That is terrific.
Aurora Theatre: For Anthony, how does Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol relate back to the original story?
Anthony: Well, it’s significantly shorter. We don’t have every single character. The ghosts, Marley, Scrooge’s nephew Fred, Belle…but it differs in that Tony Brown, [director and adapter of A Christmas Carol] wrote it specifically for me. He’s written another adaptation that they do at the Shakespeare Tavern, and he’s an expert on all things Charles Dickens. He knows the book backwards and forwards. [Originally, the adaptation] was much longer. There was a process that Tony and I went through of cutting and shaving and making it really personal for me and for the audience. There’s some beautiful stuff that has come out of being able to work with Tony and craft this piece. I didn’t know how long I would do the show. I thought I’d be done after the first year, because it nearly killed me. But I just love it. With all the craziness of the holidays, with all of the ways people try and kill each other at Thanksgiving to just get inside a store, and the crazy way they drive in mall parking lots with seemingly no respect or kindness for one another, I get an hour and fifteen minutes to try and get them to a place where we can all experience what Christmas is supposed to be.
Aurora Theatre: So, Jaclyn. 12 Dates is a Christmas comedy; what sort of humor can audiences expect?
Jaclyn: I think there’s a lot of different kind of humor in there. There’s definitely some sarcasm. There’s some wit and wordplay, there’s a lot of different characters so there’s some character play in there; there’s a little bit of physical comedy, so all different kinds. But if you like a little bit more of the sarcastic, almost Scrooge-aspect of Christmas, we definitely do that. It’s a story about a woman who is going through the trials and tribulations of dating in her early thirties and who gets a little bit jaded every now and again. Ultimately, it’s about a woman who’s trying to find herself during the holidays, and on the way to discovering that it’s okay for her to just be her, and she doesn’t need another person to make her whole, especially to make her whole around the holidays when you have to see other couples, and family. There’s a little bit of spicy language in there, too.
Aurora Theatre: What is your favorite part about the each other’s one person show?
Jaclyn: I love so many parts of Anthony’s show. I really love his Tiny Tim. His Tiny Tim is pretty amazing.
Anthony: I’m a sap, right, so I love it when the little kid asks her to be his girlfriend. I think that’s a beautiful moment. You do such a good job with that show.
Jaclyn: I also just like how you command the room. I mean, if there’s someone who’s going to play all of the characters in A Christmas Carol, it’s Anthony. He gets your attention from start to finish. Each of his characters is so fascinating and he makes the changes on a dime from one person to the next. It’s just really exciting to watch.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol featuring Anthony Rodriguez opens Friday, November 27 at 8 PM in the Studio Theatre, and The 12 Dates of Christmas featuring Jaclyn Hofmann opens Saturday, November 28, also at 8 PM in the Studio. Happy holidays!